“I’ve always thought James Joyce was a woman.”
You said it so simply, so outright. We were just talking about what to get your sister for her thirtieth birthday party, and then out your confession came — if I may call it that.
We were waiting for the rush hour crowd to clear out of the train stations because you have a thing against people who were in a hurry. You have always been wary of them, suspicious of their insistence on pace, while you go about your days like you have all the time in the world to spare. I have always liked that about you. In fact, I like everything about you. Until now.
“Are you serious?”, I ask, lighting up a cigarette, my first for the day. Nothing like the rush of your first stick. I have written down quitting nicotine on top of my resolutions list. It’s only the fifth day of the new year and I have broken it already. Oh well, tough luck.
“I actually am.”
You turned sideways just to glare. “I’m surprised you aren’t laughing.”
I smiled even if you have already looked away. “It’s because of the Joyce, isn’t it?”
“What about the James?”
“I don’t know.”
You laughed and laced your fingers into mine. ” Come on!”
We arrived at your apartment soaked in rain, panting. Every minute movement led to dripping on your redwood floors. The sky let up just as we were getting off the last train. I wanted to wait — you, however, dragged me out, oblivious of the downpour, and then challenged me to an impromptu race to your doorstep, knowing very well I won’t go down without a fight.
You won, of course. You gave me a knowing smile before you disappeared into the kitchen. I removed every article of clothing as I felt around your closet for something – anything – that I could change into. “Borrowing your polo!”
From somewhere you grunted as a response. I knew you wouldn’t mind. You told me once that you liked it when I crept around the house in your clothes. You said I looked helpless.
“What does that mean?”, I snapped, though not really annoyed.
“It means,” you replied, kissing my forehead, “that you don’t have your defenses up anymore.”
I snuggled under your covers and closed my eyes. My hair was still wet, and was in the process of drenching your pillowcase with the smell of rain, or sweat, or both. By now, I couldn’t tell them apart.
I felt your arms circling my waist and your right leg grazing mine, your being containing me, us molding into one. “Arundhati Roy, however, is a female. Just in case you didn’t know.”, I whispered.
“Meh, she doesn’t count.”
I patted your hand softly. “You are so racist.”
You laugh into my hair, muffling your childish chuckle. “No, it’s just that.. well, can you tell African names apart?”
“She isn’t even African.”
It was that time of the evening when you did not need words anymore. I could feel your breathing acquiring a slow, steady rhythm, surrendering to sleep. The world submitted into silence as well. Aside from the glare of the orange streetlamps still managing to pierce through the glass windows and harsh winds sweeping over the city, we were completely alone. Tomorrow, I’d ask you about Lewis Caroll.